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Autonomous vehicles are a rapidly growing and improving industry, with massive implications for disabled people. They could provide a level of freedom previously unheard of. They are now set to be tested on motorways in Britain in 2019, according to a group of British technology companies

Driverless cars are currently being tested in small urban areas and city centres. The cars aim to drive entirely independently, but a human driver will be present to take over control if needed.

The Government has been pouring hundreds of millions into trialling and developing the technology required to make this a reality, in the hope of being a leader in autonomous technology. There are, however, a few questions that need to be answered before we can comfortably test these vehicles on our roads, and entrust them with our safety.

During tests, these cars have manual controls that can override the driverless technology if needed, but it won’t be long before cars are made without steering wheels. Over the past few years, the Government has been very clear that it wants to make the UK a place for manufactures to test vehicles, and has therefore invested millions in research, and looking at how the technology cooperates with the environment and other cars on the road.
We have compiled a timeline for the development of autonomous vehicles.

In 2016, assisted driving was introduced, consisting of a series of cameras and radars that monitor hazards ahead and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems can apply the brakes where it is necessary. Furthermore, lane departure technology helps keep the motorist on track if they slip out of their lane while not paying attention. However, drivers remain in full control, except for some cases such as the Volvo S90 which has low-speed driving assistance systems that can drive the car when doing under 30mph, but the driver must keep their hands lightly on the steering wheel at all times.

2018 is hoped to mark the first huge landmark in autonomous driving technology, with ‘hands-off’ driving technology. This means that drivers will remain responsible, and will still have to take control in unexpected circumstances or if the technology fails. They will be able to take their hands off the wheel for around three minutes at a time before the technology warns them to put their hands back on the wheel – if this doesn’t happen, the car will safely manoeuvre to a stop and the system will cut out.

By 2021, it is hoped that automated driving will be much more common, and there will be sections of motorways where the car can take complete control using a raft of sensors, radars, cameras and lasers to manoeuvre on the roads. Hopefully these vehicles should be able to safely steer, brake and accelerate autonomously.

Finally, by 2025, it is predicted that cars will be able to completely drive themselves from door to door without a driver even needing to touch the wheel, including motorways, traffic lights, junctions and roundabouts. Furthermore, cars will be wirelessly connected to each other and therefore make decisions on traffic and journey times. It is likely that a steering wheel will still be in the car, but beyond 2025 it is imaginable that the steering wheel will become unnecessary and will be removed, leaving the driver with no option to take control at all.

This exciting technology is quickly developing, and in the next 10 years it will be common to see a car without a steering wheel. The opportunities for this technology are endless, and autonomous machines could, if perfected, be implemented into many different industries, and may be suitable for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle conversion.



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